Congo Tales by Pieter Henket - from July 08 to Aug. 05, 2020
Howard Greenberg Gallery
41 E. 57th Street Suite 1406
New York, NY 10022, USA
. and the artit's website : www.pieterhenket.com
Pieter Henket’s Congo Tales explores cultural mythologies of the local inhabitants of the Congo Basin, home of the second largest tropical rain forest in the world.
Congo Tales tells the stories and myths of the inhabitants of the Congo basin, the world’s second-largest tropical rainforest, after the Amazon. Tales of Us has been working on Congo Tales in this region of Africa for the past five years. “Tales of Us” invited Dutch portrait photographer Pieter Henket to collaborate on the project. Working with local inhabitants, the team has created a large series of photographs which they are now using to draw attention to this largely unknown rainforest and those who call it home. Henket’s filmic and surrealistic portraits bring to life the magic and mysteries of this region, which is so important to the planet.
Congolese people who live in the Mbomo District of the Congo basin present their myths, which have never before been recorded, as photographed by Pieter Henket. The Congolese, their myths and the rainforest are the stars of Henket’s photographs. Dozens of children forming the shape of an Mbomo (or Boa Constrictor); over a hundred Congolese women assembled at the border of the forest; Congolese men on the hunt for a mythical bird – these images tell the story of supernatural forces that control life and death, of ritualistic initiations, of the laws of nature that lie outside human laws, bringing to life the magic and mystery of this little understood place, and its incalculable value to the planet.
Henket is not a photographer who ‘captures’ reality. He carefully builds his compositions, stylising his subjects and mixing light and co- lour in the manner of a painter. He subtly refers to the Dutch masters of the 17th century, which as a Dutchman he knows through and through. For his images created in the rainforest, for example, he used a powerful stroboscope powered by a battery to create Rembrand- tesque lighting, evoking an atmosphere in the photographs that ties in perfectly with the myths of the Congolese.
Tales of us worked on this extraordinary Congo Tales series for five years. Congolese artist and philosopher Steve Regis ‘Kovo’ N’Sondé and award-winning author Wilfried N’Sondé committed 24 selected stories to paper, which have been published in a book of the same name. Channelling the primal heartbeat of one of the world’s most powerful ecosystems and the people who call it home, the mythological tales of the Congolese are revealed as a treasure trove of universal wisdom that is both existential and pragmatic, with the unspoiled Odzala Kokoua National Park as stage and actor.
The groundbreaking Tales of Us project is a captivating work of art and photography, and Congo Tales is a feat of innovative environmental messaging and cross-cultural and cross-continental collaboration intended both to prevent the loss of this all-important bastion of nature, and to reveal its priceless value to the world and our communal future in it.
Tales of Us aims to create social awareness through the cultures of local population groups. It is an ongoing multimedia project that hopes to introduce a new perspective on the urgency of protecting the world’s mightiest yet most vulnerable ecosystems and the people for whom they are home. Tales of Us categorically rejects the common, fear-based environmental message about preserving regions that are critical for the global environment, preferring instead to tell the stories of the people who live there in a completely new way. The local mythology, legends and lore which form the basis of cultures that existed long before our modern civilisation are portrayed by the world’s most celebrated portrait photographers, in staged images set in the natural, ecologically vital setting from which they originate.
The show at Museum de Fundatie is the exhibition’s fourth stop. It was first shown in Mbomo and Brazzaville (Congo), followed by the Barberini Museum in Potsdam. Besides 43 photographs by Pieter Henket the exhibition also includes the film The Little Fish and the Crocodile and soundscapes of the Mbomo rainforest by sound artist David Kamp. Congo Tales has already helped change how the Congo basin and the people who live there are seen in the rest of the world. The project made the front page of the international New York Times and the front page of the art section of the national edition. PBS News Hour, National Public Radio, Public Radio International and BBC World News have all carried items on Congo Tales.